Our immune system does not shut down with age, says a new study led by McMaster University researchers.
A study published in PLOS Pathogens today shows a specialized class of immune cells, known as T cells, can respond to virus infections in an older person with the same vigour as T cells from a young person.
"For a long time, it was thought the elderly were at a higher risk of infections because they lacked these immune cells, but that simply isn't the case," said Jonathan Bramson, the study's principal investigator. "The elderly are certainly capable of developing immunity to viruses."
Researchers at McMaster, University of Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania examined individuals, younger than 40, between 41 to 59 years of age and older than 60, infected with three different viruses, including West Nile, and found the older group demonstrated perfectly normal immune responses.
Both the number of virus-fighting T cells and the functionality of the T cells were equivalent in all three groups.
"So as we age, our bodies are still able to respond to new viruses, while keeping us immune to viruses we've been exposed to in the past," Bramson said.
He added that these results have important implications for vaccination of elderly individuals.
Currently, vaccines for the elderly aren't designed to elicit responses from these immune cells, and this might explain the lack of effective protection from the flu vaccine, he said.
Vaccines specifically designed to generate T-cell immunity may be more effective at protecting older adults, Bramson said.
McMaster University: http://www.mcmaster.ca
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In the article on the discovery of dinosaurs (They’re back, Review, 6 June) you state: “In Sussex, a local doctor uncovered fragmentary remains of what appeared to be two more species of colossal extinct land reptiles.” You grossly underplay the contribution of Lewes-born Gideon Mantell, geologist and palaeontologist, author and diarist, friend to princes and international scholars as well as local doctor. Mantell not only discovered (aided by his wife) the first remains of the iguanodon in 1824 but named it – as it resembled the tooth of an iguana. This was the first known land dinosaur, Mary Anning having identified the first sea-living dinosaur.Mantell went on to put together more pieces of the jigsaw with extra fossil discoveries. In contrast to Richard Owen, whose models form the basis for the Crystal Palace dinosaurs, Mantell stated correctly that iguanodon would have walked on their back legs, using their forearms to fight or gather food. He did, however, attribute the thumb spike to a nose horn though later corrected this assumption. The Natural History Museum has a display on Gideon and his wife Mary’s contribution as well as the large “Mantell-piece” of Iguanodon fossils that he had on show in his museum in Brighton. He sold it, along with many more priceless items, to the British Museum in 1838. Gideon Mantell’s reputation deserves better than your throwaway remark. Debby MatthewsLewes, East Sussex Continue reading...
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